The Importance Of Mental Health Awareness In The Workplace
Published on 28th September, 2023
According to findings from the Singapore Mental Health Study in 2016, almost one in seven respondents (13.9%) reported that they had faced mental illness at some point in their life (Shafie et al., 2020). These findings underscore the profound impact of mental health on every facet of our lives, influencing our well-being, emotions, and overall quality of life. However, mental health continues to be a stigmatised and commonly neglected aspect of overall well-being. Although there has been a growing recognition of the significance of mental health, there is still much work to be done to break down the barriers that prevent individuals from seeking help and support when they need it most. Society’s understanding of mental health is evolving, and it is essential for not only individuals - but also workplaces to play their part in reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Mental health awareness in the workplace refers to an environment that focuses on being mindful of, and then improving on, the collective mental health of the workplace so that everyone feels supported and included, especially in more difficult times (Jobson, 2022). Raising mental health awareness does not only help with shaping a healthier workplace, it also helps to break the stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging individuals to change the way they discuss it.
Read on as we examine the effects of effective mental health awareness in the workplace and various strategies businesses may use to enhance mental health awareness.
Impact on employees
1. Promotes a supportive work environment
Having business leaders who champion mental health awareness in the workplace is important, as it fosters a culture of care, and ensures the well-being of the entire workforce. In a study conducted at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center to better understand the impact of nurses’ work on their emotional well-being, it was found that nurses in negative work environments with higher work pressure experienced greater emotional exhaustion. On the other hand, nurses who received support from their supervisors experienced significantly lower emotional exhaustion, highlighting the importance of supportive leadership in promoting employee mental well-being (Constable & Russell, 1986).
By promoting mental health awareness, employers can create an environment where staff members feel comfortable discussing their problems. In turn, this encourages a sense of well-being and belonging. Employees are more likely to reach out for help or share their struggles, such as experiencing burnout at work, when they know their workplace values their mental well-being. This support network can be vital in times of crisis.
2. Reduce stigma surrounding mental illness
Increased awareness leads to open conversations about mental health, reducing the stigma that often prevents employees from seeking help when needed. When employees witness their colleagues discussing mental health openly, they are less likely to feel shame or fear judgement for seeking assistance. This cultural shift helps normalise seeking help for mental health concerns.
3. Employee retention
Employer retention rates are generally higher in organisations that place importance on mental health. Research shows that 79% of employees in the U.S are likely to stay at a company that provides high-quality mental health resources (Modern Health, 2022). Individuals are more likely to stick with their current employer when they feel valued and supported. Investing in mental health support not only improves well-being but also has financial advantages for businesses because turnover rates can be costly.
4. Mental health awareness training
Providing employees with mental health awareness training equips them with the knowledge and skills to recognise signs of distress in themselves and their colleagues, facilitating early intervention (Jobson, 2022). For example, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA™) Training is a globally recognised program that teaches employees how to provide initial support to someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Participants learn to identify signs of mental health issues, offer assistance, and connect individuals with appropriate resources.
This training helps employees become more attuned to their own mental health and empowers them to assist co-workers who may be struggling, potentially preventing more severe issues from developing.
Strategies to promote mental health awareness
1. Offer flexibility
Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible hours, can help employees manage their mental health better by reducing stress associated with rigid schedules. Giving employees the flexibility to balance work and personal life can significantly reduce the stressors that can negatively impact mental health.
2. Provide mental health benefits
Comprehensive mental health benefits, including access to therapy and adult counselling in Singapore, demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being. For example, in Singapore, some companies allow flexible time-off policies such as mental health leaves to help employees manage their stress by granting them time-off from work when they’re feeling burnout or overwhelmed. Some companies also provide corporate insurance coverage for mental health. Access to mental health services without financial barriers ensures that employees can seek professional help when needed, contributing to early intervention and better outcomes.
3. Employee recognition
Acknowledging and celebrating employees' contributions and achievements boosts their self-esteem and mental well-being. Feeling valued and appreciated at work enhances employees' overall job satisfaction and positively impacts their mental health.
4. Relaxation spaces
Creating dedicated spaces within the workplace for relaxation and mindfulness activities can offer employees a respite from stress and encourage mental well-being (Waters, 2022). These spaces provide employees with a sanctuary where they can recharge, reducing stress and improving mental clarity.
In light of the persistent stigma surrounding mental health, it is encouraged for employers to cultivate greater empathy and openness when addressing mental health awareness in the workplace. Placing importance on employees' mental health will not only lead to a more compassionate and caring work environment but also bring about tangible benefits for the company. Companies may consider providing mental health services, such as psychotherapy in Singapore, to show their commitment to employee well-being.
Constable, J. F., & Russell, D. W. (1986). The Effect of Social Support and the Work Environment upon Burnout among Nurses. Journal of Human Stress, 12(1), 20–26. https://doi.org/10.1080/0097840x.1986.9936762
Jobson, L. (2022). Why is mental health awareness at work so important? EW Group. https://theewgroup.com/blog/mental-health-awareness-work/
Mental Health Benefits for Employee Retention - Attract and Retain Talent. (2022, October 28). Modern Health. https://www.modernhealth.com/post/employee-retention-and-mental-health-benefits
Shafie, S., Subramaniam, M., Abdin, E., Vaingankar, J. A., Sambasivam, R., Zhang, Y., Shahwan, S., Chang, S., Jeyagurunathan, A., & Chong, S. A. (2020). Help-Seeking Patterns Among the General Population in Singapore: Results from the Singapore Mental Health Study 2016. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 48(4), 586–596. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-020-01092-5
Waters, S. (2022). https://www.betterup.com/blog/mental-health-in-the-workplace#:~:text=Positive%20mental%20health%20at%20work,to%20reach%20their%20highest%20potential.